UW Today

June 27, 2011

Seattle survey: Block watches and individual cop recognition promote good opinions of police

It really is about putting a foot in the water and getting to know the folks.

A new survey shows that Seattle residents who know or recognize a police officer in their neighborhood and have participated in a block watch or similar program are more likely to regard police positively. And its especially true about people of color.

Seattles Office of the Mayor commissioned graduate students at the UW Evans School of Public Affairs to conduct the online survey. Fielded between March 23rd and April 26th, the survey drew 3,765 responses.

Results indicate that:

  • Perceptions about police and safety distinctly varied from neighborhood to neighborhood, and respondents generally agreed about neighborhoods they perceive unsafe.
  • Residents of wealthier neighborhoods such as Laurelhurst perceived themselves safer than residents of poorer ones such as Rainier Beach, and the latter felt they dont have enough police patrols.
  • At least 65 percent of respondents from three neighborhoods – Magnolia/Interbay, Rainier Beach and Sunset Hill/Whittier Heights –  perceived crime increasing, though statistics show that in the city, crime is actually decreasing.
  • Eighty percent of respondents said they dont recognize individual police officers in their neighborhood.
  • Seventy percent selected the same five ways to improve neighborhood safety. All concern the physical environment: improve street and sidewalk lighting, get rid of graffiti, fill empty storefronts and institute more block watches. Only 30 percent of respondents said they participate in such watches.
  • Despite their concerns, 52 percent of respondents termed crime in their neighborhood “a minor problem.”

Because of the small number of responses in some neighborhoods, the researchers combined the citys 53 community reporting areas into 40.

“Public safety requires partnership between the community and the police,” said Mayor Mike McGinn. He added that the city is committed to working with residents on best ways to make neighborhoods safer.

Authors of the report are Ahmad Aaf, Jisoo Han, Michael Huynh and Elise Ricci ,who are graduate students in the Evans School. They were supervised by Crystal Hall, who is an assistant professor in the school.

###

For additional information, contact Hall at hallcc@uw.edu or 360-990-2303 or 206-221-5237. At Mayor McGinns office, contact spokesman Aaron Pickus: aaron.pickus@seattle.gov or 206-233-2650.